This post outlines what I think are the most important things to look for when buying a digital piano; they’re on my current checklist.
1. Sound quality
- Sound quality is arguably the most important factor when considering a dedicated digital piano.
- Take a good pair of headphones, or listen to each instrument you try through the same sound source, to ascertain how realistic they sound to you.
- Play a variety of different notes, scales, volumes, with and without pedalling, listening for any obvious sound defects, bad samples, etc.
2. Keyboard feel
- Almost or equally important is the feel of the keyboard.
- Remember that not all acoustic piano keyboards feel the same either.
- This is a very subjective issue – make sure you find a keyboard that feels good to you.
- Polyphony dictates how many notes can sound at any one time.
- Lower-end digital pianos tend to have a lower polyphony count.
- Higher polyphony will allow greater flexibility in both complex music and for layering sounds. Lower polyphony can result in notes being cut off abuptly.
- Personally I would not buy a digital piano with less than 64 notes of polyphony.
4. Sound adjustment
- Can the piano sounds be adjusted with effects, brilliance, and so on.
- You should decide if this will be important to you – often it is useful to be able to change the tonal quality of a piano for different types of music.
- How easy is it to change these parameters?
5. Pedalling capabilities
- All digital pianos should offer at least basic damper pedal support.
- Higher-end digital pianos will offer other options, including ‘soft’ and ‘sostenuto’ pedal support, and half-pedalling capability.
- You may not need or use these immediately, but may regret not having them later if your playing advances.
- ‘Graded Hammer’ and other fully-weighted digital pianos, and those with built-in speakers, are generally heavier.
- Do you need the instrument to be easily portable (i.e. for gigging)?
- Built-in speakers can be very useful particularly for home use, as they make the instrument self-contained.
- Speakers add weight to the instrument, and smaller speakers don’t always do full justice to the sound.
- Check what additional connections you will require.
- Audio: headphones, audio out
- MIDI/USB for connection to a computer
- Ultimately, how much you are willing to pay will dictate what you buy.
- Don’t be afraid to shop around, particularly online, or haggle with your dealer, to get a better deal or extra accessories with your digital piano.
- Beware of expensive manufacturer/showroom-based finance deals – you may be better off using a 0% credit card or a low-rate bank loan if you need to borrow on your purchase.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of factors to consider, but I believe it covers the most important ones when looking for a dedicated digital piano.
Don’t be afraid to look at the detailed specifications for each instrument. Some are written in technical language, but you should be able to find out basic information like the polyphony, sound generation technology, pedalling options, effects, and connections.